Steel suppliers expected to meet new standards

18th August 2023

With greater emphasis being placed on safety in the South African steel industry, local suppliers of conveyance piping can no longer merely be accredited by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), owing to the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) having suspended the SABS’ authority to ensure safety and quality standards of these products, with the exception of light wall, low-pressure piping.

Suppliers of steel piping are now required to be certified with the South African Technical Auditing Services (SATAS), with local steel supplier Macsteel CEO Mike Benfield warning that customers should be vigilant when investing in quality accredited piping products. SABS accreditation is no longer adequate to ensure adherence to safety standards.

He says education initiatives are, thus, necessary to ensure that inferior products do not infiltrate the market. Should this occur, it could increase the risk of, for example, accelerated ageing, as well as galvanising and weld failures, which can lead to more replacements and, consequently, additional costs for the buyer, Benfield warns.

“There is a huge requirement to ensure [that] all customers are made aware of different requirements according to different specifications, the specific steel grades required for each product, the importance of adherence to wall thicknesses and the consequences of material failing to meet these stringent quality standards.”

SATAS is a governing body accredited by SANAS that has the authority to accredit other bodies and products that adhere to certain quality standards. It ensures that the supplier complies with international product and systems quality requirements.

The SABS is currently not accredited with SANAS to certify product quality of steel piping products by means of product markings.

However, Benfield assures that Macsteel’s Fluid Control business unit has been accredited by SATAS since March 2017, adding that the standards required to achieve product certification depend on the specific South African National Standards (SANS) specification.

Some general aspects to achieve certification include material traceability, correct material grade according to client requirements, minimum wall thickness, colour coding, length tolerances and regular material testing during production.

SATAS also conducts regular audits to ensure suppliers continue to meet these standards.

Benfield explains that having products certified by SATAS assures customers that the product is manufactured according to the declared specifications.

“The negative consequences of buying inferior products that do not conform to the standards can be astronomical to the end-user. Products that have not been manufactured according to the stringent requirements set out by the SANS specifications could result in failures, [which could lead to] . . . death, personal injury, downtime and loss of revenue.”

To ensure that all its products adhere to the relevant standards, Macsteel is an adherent of SATAS, SABS and the International Organisation for Standardisation, whereby the company continuously regulates itself to ensure it provides quality products for customers.

Hence, Macsteel has been testing various materials to ensure that inadequate products do not find their way into the market.

“We spend a lot of money to ensure that we provide ourselves, and our customers, with peace of mind that our products will never result in loss of life,” Benfield assures.

In addition, as a member of local steel association the South African Institute for Steel Construction (Saisc), Macsteel aims to educate the customer base and regulate competitors and other steel producers to ensure that South African products meet the highest standards.

Benfield contends that local steel associations, such as Saisc, have an important role to play as proverbial industry watchdogs, ensuring the consumer remains informed, noting that self-regulation, awareness and education are key to ensuring that the interests of the consumer and the high quality of South African products are protected.

“We strongly believe in Saisc’s role as custodian and champion of the steel sector . . . it is imperative for the Saisc to ensure its continued relevance by ensuring [that] its members are provided with value in all forms,” he concludes.

Benfield’s sentiments are echoed by Saisc SEO Amanuel Gebremeskel: “A key component of any quality programme is to have a system of auditing that lends credibility to the whole regime.

“This is why Saisc is working to gradually introduce a certification programme for structural steelwork over the next few years. Saisc is the only credible body to implement such a programme in our region since we are also involved in writing standards and have the confidence of the industry.”